“Oh, you’re the pastor at Trinity these days. I hear they’re closing their doors. When’s that happening now?”
In the last three months of serving Trinity Lutheran Church of Lakewood as the interim pastor, I’ve heard the question above many more times than I can count. I am always delighted to be able to correct the folks and let them know what God is up to in our corner of Lakewood. Rumors are funny like that; they’re usually only partially true!
Trinity Lutheran has taken a grand leap of faith and voted to sell their property and relocate to a new worship home. This has certainly been an emotionally challenging time. We still have members in their late 90s who were born around the time the corner stone was laid and have worshiped here their whole lives. No one wants to say good-bye to such a holy place where they’ve met God for so many years, said farewell to loved ones, baptized their children, married their spouses… And yet, it is clear that the building has become a hindrance to growing ministry and thriving for the sake of the Gospel.
Over the last many years of discernment and decision making, it was decided that the most financially responsible thing to do is sell the property and move to a location that is handicapped accessible, still relatively centrally located, and will allow the congregation to continue worshiping as well as serving the community.
God has provided! Trinity has come to an agreement with the members and Pastoral staff of Lakewood Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) that allows Trinity to move into their facilities. Lakewood Congregational is only a few blocks away from our current location, still on the bus line, is fully handicapped accessible, and they share Trinity’s passion for inclusion and full welcome of all people regardless of background, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
The congregations together have hired a consultant to help shepherd the process and transition to living together and sharing space. The transition teams from both congregations continue to meet regularly to be sure that this move is smooth, that relationships are built, and a common vision is shared. This is not a merger of two congregations becoming one. It is rather the sharing of space and ministries while continuing to remain separate in our identity as UCC and Lutheran Christians. The denominations share full-communion, which allows us to be even freer to open the possibilities of joining together in worship and service!
Just think….. The food ministries of Trinity fed nearly 5000 hungry people last year while in our smaller and more cramped kitchen. What will we be able to do with a larger kitchen facility and another congregation as our partner? Trinity is currently in a waiting period while a perspective buyer of the property completes its inspections and due diligence. I hope you will join me in prayer for this transition. Pray for an easy process of sale and growing relationship between two congregations. And, let us give God thanks for the faithful who decided taking a leap for the sake of the Gospel in Christ was more important than keeping their building open and doing things the way they’ve always done it before.
Rev. Angela Freeman-Riley
Trinity Lutheran Church, Lakewood, Ohio